At least 25 people have died due to unavailability of alcohol across Telangana state as the country has been under a lockdown for the containment of the coronavirus disease. According to local media sources, hundreds with alcohol withdrawal symptoms are being admitted on a daily basis in the Institute of Mental Health at Erragadda in Hyderabad.
Many of these victims have committed suicides, according to Telugu daily Eenadu. In the Medak district alone, 10 people with alcohol withdrawal symptoms have died of suicides and illnesses since March 22. According to the local media reports, Hyderabad witnessed six such deaths, five people died in Sangareddy district, while two each in Vikarabad and Nizamabad districts.
On Tuesday, one elderly woman died after consuming adulterated toddy in Chinchalpeta village of Vikarabad district, while 26 others have fallen sick after consumption.
According to reports, on Monday, one person, Bikshapathi, died of fits due to unavailability of toddy drink in JP colony of Patancheru town; 45-year-old Devadasu committed suicide by hanging himself at his residence in Talapalli village in Sangareddy district. According to his family, he was a Toddy addict and was showing symptoms such as hallucinations and anxiety before he committed suicide. In Hyderabad’s Uppal, 62-year-old Venkateswarlu, a daily wage labourer, was distressed since the alcohol and wine shops were closed. He hanged himself at his home on Sunday evening. On Monday, 58 years old Subashchandra Vaghmare died of electrocution as he committed suicide by climbing an electricity transformer. On Monday, in Burgapalli village in Vikarabad district, 45-year-old Chakali Rachayya died by jumping into a well in the village. He, too, was a Toddy addict.
Reportedly, tens of people with alcohol withdrawal symptoms have gone missing from their homes.
Most of these victims are long-term addicts of adulterated toddy or cheap liquor rampantly available in the state.
According to doctors, such victims need immediate medical assistance. “Adulterated toddy drinks consist of chemicals such as dizoform and chlorohydrate. People addicted to such drinks suffer from alcohol withdrawal delirium due to sudden unavailability of the drinks. Such patients need medical care so that they can be treated using anti-delirium drugs,” says doctor K Srinivas, a neuropsychiatrist.
Meanwhile, several activists are urging the state government to provide de-addiction support to the alcoholics. Sunitha Krishnan, among other human rights activists, appealed to the chief minister and said that “there is urgent need for de-addiction support for alcoholics. This is a golden opportunity to make TELANGANA alcohol addiction free”.
On the other hand, persons suffering from sudden alcohol cessation are queuing up at district hospitals and at the Institute of Mental Health in Hyderabad.
According to doctor Uma Shankar, superintendent of the Institute of Mental Health, such patients displayed symptoms like hallucination, delusion, confusion, hypertension, fever and heavy sweating. “Depending on the patient’s condition, we are either admitting them to our inpatient wing or treating them as outpatients. It becomes complicated for persons who are addicted to adulterated toddy, wherein sellers lace the drink with chemicals such as diazepam and alprazolam,” Uma Shankar told Telangana Today.
Similar incidents of deaths have been reported from Kerala as well. Reportedly, more than six people have committed suicide due to unavailability of alcohol during the ongoing lockdown. Dealing with the situation, the state government has directed its excise department to serve liquor to chronic alcoholics based on doctors’ prescription.
Also read: COVID Lockdown: We’ve Run Out of Food, Say Migrant Workers Stranded in Gujarat